While Fort Frances native Jade Dittaro has had success with the “Best Buddies” program in London, Ont., the program was launched here earlier this year to great promise.
The program is running both at Fort Frances High School and Rainy River High School, with students volunteering to be partnered up with an intellectually-disabled student to spend time together socially.
“It’s going really good,” said Faith Moen, volunteer co-ordinator with Community Living Fort Frances and District. “We brought it to the schools’ attention in November and had it up and running in January.”
There are 11 students participating at Fort High and eight in Rainy River.
“The point is to develop lifelong friendships,” Moen noted. “It was nice to see such a good response when you have such small numbers.
“We did pretty good for the first year,” she added.
Each buddy pair talks at least once a week, and does an activity together once a month. In addition to that, there are planned group activities such as bowling and pizza night.
At Fort High, the students all went to see the school’s production of “Les Misérables” together.
Because the buddy pairs attend school together, they also have opportunities to see each other in the hallways or to have lunch together, Moen noted.
One student from each school will be attending the first Best Buddies High School National Leadership Conference in Toronto in August, which will be an opportunity for student leaders to participate in workshops and get tips from veterans of the program.
The program will run again at both schools this fall, and Moen said she’s hoping to attract more volunteers.
It is especially beneficial to have returning students participate in the program, in addition to seniors who will be graduating in the spring.
“We’re always looking to have our chapter grow,” Moen said. “The more people you have, the more fun it is and the easier it is to do fundraising.”
Anyone interested in participating can contact Moen at 274-5556 ext. 19.